What Warriors fans can expect from Klay in the 2022-23 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
After a 31-month stint in which he tore his left ACL, had surgery, nearly finished rehab, tore his right Achilles tendon, had another surgery, and completed another rehab, Klay Thompson just wanted to get back on the field with the warrior.
Limited to watching the first 38 games, he returned in Game 39. When he re-acquainted himself with the NBA, he appeared in just 32 of Golden State’s 44 regular-season games. He was by turns great, ordinary and below his standard.
Klay shot a minimum of 50 percent in 10 games, but failed to hit 40 percent in 15, including four games in which he shot less than 30 percent.
It wasn’t until the playoffs, where he achieved 100 percent turnout (22-of-22) in the more forgiving schedule, that he looked more like the Klay of yesteryear.
Think of that six-month voyage as a trial run. A dress rehearsal.
As far as 2022 is his first summer in four years not dominated by rehabilitation and recovery, there’s good reason to believe that last season was just a warm-up for things to come. Just being able to play won’t satisfy Klay.
At the age of 32, he wants to return to All-Star level.
“I’m looking forward to the summer,” Thompson told NBC Sports Bay Area during the championship parade on June 20. “But I can’t wait for next season to start. I believe I will be so much better.”
It’s fair to anticipate this to be true, and one of the reasons is that Thompson plans to be alongside Stephen Curry from day 1 of training camp and certainly on opening night. No re-acquaintance is necessary. They make each other better and will prove that they still represent the best backcourt in the league.
Klay’s shooting touch, with practically perfect form, will bless him into his fifties. Maybe its 60s. It will be sharper, so expect more fireworks, more games where he sears the nets with a volley of three-pointers and fewer games where he misses one in three shots.
While sidelined for two full seasons and a half of another, Thompson took the time to analyze his offense. He added nuance and made better use of his fake pump, leading to easy runs from the foul line. He also showed more of a desire to drive to the edge, a different way of pulling fouls and shooting free throws.
With age comes a willingness to adapt. Call it smart.
However, with age comes more challenges on the defense. During Klay’s iron-man prime, he was the first line of defense against prolific point guards from Chris Paul to Russell Westbrook to James Harden. Utilities? Coach Steve Kerr must be selective about Klay’s defensive assignments.
While it might seem unfair to throw him at Grizzlies brand Ja Morant, it makes perfect sense to send Klay to big guards like Mavericks star Luka Doncic or Suns star Devin Booker. It might be worth seeing what Thompson can do with combo guards too, like John Wall of the Clippers and CJ McCollum of the Pelicans.
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There is one more aspect that will differ from the Klay from five years ago. His minutes should take a dip in the regular season, from the mid-30s to the low 30s. While he won’t be banned from playing back-to-back nights per se, next season will be about managing minutes for all veterans.
Is it too much to ask of Klay to play like he did in 2017-18, his most efficient offensive season and worthy of the All-Defensive team’s recognition? Yes, but don’t be surprised if he gets very close to those heights.
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